At Work & Public Square

Next Gen: Four Takeaways from the “Masterpiece” Decision

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This week, I’m attending the high school graduation of my nephew, the oldest of my twelve nephews and nieces and one goddaughter. My husband and I joke that we’re setting a dangerous precedent that will lead to us traveling all over the country attending family graduations for years to come. But it’s a joy for this aunt and a significant accomplishment to be celebrated.

On the IFWE blog this week, we’re celebrating graduates and talking about calling and issues that face them in today’s world. One of those significant issues arose in last week’s Supreme Court ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC), a case involving how religious freedom plays out in the workplace. While graduates were busy completing finals or packing up dorm rooms, legal issues were at play that affect the rights not only of Christians but people of all faiths.

As Hugh Whelchel discussed last week, the ruling was favorable for Christian baker Jack Phillips and his right not to be discriminated against by the CRCC. However, it was not conclusive in regard to his religious freedom or that of others in similar cases.

After the decision, Jack Phillips wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that summarizes his view of faith and work and what was really at play in this case. There are several key points in his article that would be helpful to pass along to our graduates.

1. Religious freedom is essential to pursuing your calling. Keep it on your radar.

The generation graduating high school this year (tentatively called Generation Z) has grown up with the world at their fingertips, literally. The first iPhone was released when they were first graders in 2007. Learning and equipping themselves with information has been significantly different than prior generations. While some may currently be caught up in the “meme” world this technology affords, the flip side of this trend means that they are dreaming about what they could be someday and have hope for the future.

Jack Phillips says that such dreaming is “the heart of the American experience” and that an individual’s religious beliefs, whatever they may be, should not inhibit the pursuit of a dream vocation.

Like most 18-year-olds, my nephew is still sorting out his vocational path. Whatever career he chooses, I would never want him to have to “leave his faith at the door” of a desired job because of legal concerns.

2. Your work is sacred and, yes, so is designing a cake.

Hugh Whelchel talks to many high school and college students about a biblical view of work. He asks them, “What percentage of what you did yesterday was spiritual?” No one ever answers “100 percent,” he says.

When Christians understand that all they do is kingdom work, then even something as simple as designing a cake or as seemingly mundane as washing dishes is “spiritual.” Every facet of our lives is touched by the grace of God. Whelchel writes:

Our response as Christians to our Heavenly Father should be unlimited, all encompassing, and comprehensive….It should appear in every dimension of our lives.

Similarly, Phillips writes:

Religion isn’t something I pick up on Sunday mornings only to put away during the rest of the week. My entire life belongs to Jesus, and I believe that everything I do should honor him. As the Bible says, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17).

With the growth of organizations like IFWE that are focusing on the biblical view of faith and work, and with more being taught on this topic from the pulpit, I pray that Christians in Generation Z will avoid the sacred/secular divide that has plagued older generations. But its roots are centuries deep and may take centuries to undo.

3. Following Christ in the workplace could be costly—financially and otherwise.

Jack Phillips probably never imagined when he went into the cake business that his faith might cost him. Unfortunately, it has. When he was penalized by the CCRC for refusing to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage he had to stop making wedding cakes altogether. According to Phillips, that eliminated 40 percent of his business.

In today’s increasingly politically correct culture, more Christians are considering whether entering various fields of work will cost them or pose legal concerns. In fact, IFWE has seen hundreds of people download a free resource we offer from the Alliance Defense Fund that addresses legal concerns of Christian business owners.

Perhaps worse than the financial hit, though significant, the impact is on the work itself—and on those who would have benefited from the work. Phillips says, “the worst part was being forced to abandon my craft of wedding-cake design.”

4. Religious freedom at work is for everyone, not just Christians.

As Phillips writes and others have observed, this case, and others like it, has implications for people of all faiths. Christians have been tuned in to the case because it involved a fellow believer. But religious freedom is for everyone, and Christians should ensure it remains that way.

This may be an issue that recent graduates who have grown up in a more global and pluralistic society understand better than older generations. Yet it’s not a progressive idea, it’s fundamental to the founding of our country. As Jennifer Marshall writes,

Freedom of religion is a cornerstone of the American experiment. That is because religious faith is not merely a matter of toleration but is understood to be the exercise of inherent natural rights.

So, congratulate Jack Phillips in this important victory and congratulate our recent graduates and urge them to follow Christ, wherever that may lead them vocationally, teaching them that their work is an outflow of their faith, not separate from it. No court should ever tell them otherwise.

Editor’s note: Download the free resource An Employer’s Guide to Faith in the Workplace: Legal Protections for Christians Who Own a Business.

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